Muscat: In a male-dominated world, women are finding their stance in science and are excelling in that field, despite facing challenges.
While the 21st century has presented mankind with challenges to solve, such as pollution, climate change, food shortage and renewable energy, research is the key to overcoming these challenges.
However, according to Professor Salma Al Kindi, professor of Analytical Chemistry and dean of the College of Sciences at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), half of the population, which are women, are under-represented in research and their presence is much needed.
“The presence of women in the scientific workforce is essential for increasing the diversity and richness of human knowledge and understanding. Therefore, we cannot isolate women in this issue,” said Al Kindi.
The issue of ‘equality and the status of women in research’ was discussed during the Regional Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC), which was conducted at the Hormuz Grand Hotel, where prominent researchers from the region gathered to discuss different key issues in the field of scientific research.
According to data presented by Al Kindi, female graduates majoring in sciences, such as chemistry, biological technology and environmental biology, among others, outweighed male graduates; in addition women also made it to the Dean’s list, which is an honorary mention for students’ achievements, more often than the male students.
Unfortunately, women face several challenges, such as an inherent gender bias, discouragement at a young age, confidence gap and lack of role models.
“There are very few women in top positions that can be a role model and psychologically women like to see other women in a top position so they can get encouraged,” said Al Kindi.
She revealed that at the College of Science at SQU, there is only one female professor, compared with 35 male professors, as well as 4 female associate professors, compared with 50 men with the same job title.
Among the challenges, social taboos are also common among women working in male- dominated fields, as well as trying to balance family life with research. They also face less opportunity for decision making at some times.
Al Kindi listed solutions to overcome these challenges and to accept equality of women in the research field, such as establishing a post graduate program, mentorship programs, creating a network for women in science and developing good support for women when needed.
“The success of women also depends on family support,” said Al Kindi.